Pittsburgh City Council Approves Assault-Weapon Restrictions in Response to Synagogue Shooting

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Police officers guard the Tree of Life synagogue following shooting in Pittsburgh, Pa., October 27, 2018. (John Altdorfer/Reuters)

The Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday passed a series of gun-control bills that were introduced in response to the mass shooting that claimed eleven lives at the city’s Tree of Life Synagogue last year.

The legislative package, which passed 6–3, prohibits the public use of assault-style rifles like the AR-15 used in the synagogue shooting, bans the use of armor-piercing ammunition and high-capacity magazines, and allows the authorities to temporarily seize the firearms of anyone determined to be dangerous.

“We’re happy to take a stand,” Councilman Corey O’Connor, who led the legislative effort, said after the bills passed. “It’s going to be a difficult battle, but we are willing to fight it. People are starting to change their minds and be more open to some sort of gun control.”

Opponents of the legislation booed lawmakers after it was passed, and at least one man vowed to move to an area where his right to self-defense would not be infringed.

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“My guns are not hurting anybody. I have no intent of hurting anybody,” lifelong Pittsburgh resident Dennis Jordan told the Council. “I am not going to be allowed to own my guns because of this ordinance. I am ready to move out of this place. You just want to control people. You want to take away my right to protect people.”

The legislation, which initially prohibited the possession of assault-style rifles outright, was weakened in order to make it more likely to survive the legal challenge sure to be brought by pro-Second Amendment activists. Those activists believe Pennsylvania state law, which prohibits municipalities from regulating the possession of guns and ammunition, is on their side.

“All of it’s illegal. Pennsylvania preemption law says that no municipality, period, may in any manner regulate. And that’s at the heart of what they’re doing,” Kim Stolfer, president and co-founder of Firearms Owners Against Crime, told CBS.

The legislation was initially introduced days after a lone gunman opened fire inside the Tree of Life Synagogue on October 27, killing eleven and injuring seven in the deadliest attack on Jews in American history.

Allegheny County district attorney Stephen Zappala Jr., a Democrat, told City Council members in January that, while he understood their motivation, the proposed legislation was unconstitutional.

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